Will Smith’s carefully scripted apology to Chris Rock over the slap that shocked the world may have come too late to save his Oscar dream, movie insiders said last night.
Almost a day had passed before Smith, 53, issued a stock ‘crisis management-style’ message saying sorry to Rock for striking him on live TV during the ceremony.
But the apology on social media yesterday failed to quell calls for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to strip the star of the best actor award he collected just 20 minutes after the assault – or even kick him out. Crisis meetings, which began within minutes of the slap, continued across Los Angeles all day as the industry tried to work out what to do.
Smith’s interim fate could be decided today as Academy governors meet for their usual post-Oscars debrief. However, the saga could run on until a full meeting in May.
Almost a day had passed before Smith, 53, issued a stock ‘crisis management-style’ message saying sorry to Rock for striking him on live TV during the ceremony
The Academy is under pressure to come down hard on the Men In Black star, having launched a formal review of Sunday’s shocking incident, which came after Rock, 57, had made a crass joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who suffers from alopecia.
‘Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behaviour at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable,’ Smith said in his statement on Instagram. ‘Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally.
‘I would like to publicly apologise to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be.’
Among those calling for Smith to be punished are bosses at ABC, the network which pays millions of dollars a year to broadcast the ceremony and has seen dwindling viewing figures in return.
One ABC executive raged at Oscar chiefs that Smith ‘struck another person on live TV in front of billions of people and then verbally abused him’.
They added: ‘You can’t blow that away with standard crisis management apology speak. That doesn’t come from the heart. If America can see Will Smith’s heart then that will go a long way.’
Another studio veteran said the Academy should consider the reputational damage.
‘For decades the Academy Awards has been the gold standard of award shows. It’s something that generations of moviegoers the world over have flocked to. The Oscars are supposed to be a shining symbol but Smith has ruined that,’ the executive said.
‘Perhaps the Oscars were already on the road to ruin anyway but Smith has hastened its decline. He should answer for that.
‘Will they take the Oscar away? Probably not. But they should at the very least suspend him. Stop all this hand-wringing and meaningless statements and do something.’
Miss Pinkett Smith, 50, also took to Instagram yesterday in her first words since the incident, posting: ‘This is a season for healing and I’m here for it.’ Family sources told US media that Smith had suffered an ‘out-of-body moment’, adding: ‘It was very impulsive, and in the moment he was protecting his family.
‘Jada was the only thing he was concerned about. He didn’t even consider the ramifications or how shocking he would look.
‘He just thought about protecting and went into that mode of protector and provider.’
Smith’s mother Caroline Bright, 85, said she was shocked seeing her son stride on stage and slap a surprised Rock.
Family sources told US media that Smith had suffered an ‘out-of-body moment’, adding: ‘It was very impulsive, and in the moment he was protecting his family.
‘He is a very even, people person,’ she told Action News in Philadelphia. ‘That’s the first time I’ve ever seen him go off. First time in his lifetime. I’ve never seen him do that.’ She insisted she was proud of her son ‘for being him’ and was excited that he won the best actor Oscar for his role in King Richard. Actor Jim Carrey was less forgiving, telling CBS yesterday that he was ‘sickened’ at the standing ovation given to Smith as he collected his award.
‘Hollywood is just spineless en masse and it really felt like this is a really clear indication that we aren’t the cool club any more,’ the Dumb & Dumber star said.
And the influential Screen Actors Guild joined the chorus of disapproval, calling Smith’s behaviour ‘unacceptable’. It added: ‘Violence or physical abuse in the workplace is never appropriate and the union condemns any such conduct.’
Rock, who has declined to press charges against Smith, has not yet commented.
However, demand for tickets for his upcoming stand-up tour is reported to have surged.